Tag Archives: novel

My review of Christopher Brookmyre’s ‘Places in the Darkness’…

I have been a fan of Christopher Brookmyre for a long time ever since I first picked up a second hand copy of ‘A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away’ all the way to present day and his latest, ‘Places in the Darkness’. I have read and enjoyed every book, hunting around to find a copy of ‘Boiling A Frog’ and then seeking out each that has come since, usually from my public library. He has actually become one of my favourite authors and I look forward to each new release.

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Most recently I reread ‘Pandaemonium’, a tale where a class of Scottish school kids run into actual demons and carnage ensues. It’s a tremendous read and genuinely graphic as there are significant losses on both sides. But it is also very funny and quite touching, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. His latest is quite a step away from the usual, being as it is science-fiction, and not either a comedy book or a straighter edged detective novel.

“Places in the Darkness’ is set on a station in orbit that is supposed to be the breeding ground for humanity’s first venture out into the stars but of course things are not that simple. I won’t go into the specifics of the plot except to say that it combines Brookmyre’s trademark wit, his experience with writing detective stories featuring a hardboiled detective, in this case Nicki Fixx, and her straight-laced superior, Alice Blake, who fits more easily into the science-fiction part of the narrative.

As should be expected there has been a string of murders in the supposed utopia but ‘Places in the Darkness’ is not really a detective story. Its social commentary, as all good sci-fi is. Those on the station are trapped in a cycle of low-wages which forces everyone to have two jobs, usually one of which pays better than the other. The seedier one, of course, encouraging an underworld where anything can be obtained for the right price which is exactly how those in power like things. The sci-fi elements of the story concern the influence of technology on our lives as well as the control that those who develop said tech have over us, all of which is very ‘Black Mirror’, and I love it.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Places in the Darkness’ and it was nice to see an author whose career I have followed doing something different, while bringing along all that he had learned from their career as a comedy writer. It appears that Brookmyre’s next novel will now return to the seedy world of Jack Parlabane, his signature character, and I will be looking forward to that too, but should Brookmyre choose to return to the world of Nicki Fixx and Alice Blake, I will enjoy whatever happens next. I heartily recommend that you give ‘Places in the Darkness’ a go, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cheers!

 

 

My self-published nove;, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: https://tinyurl.com/yce6bvtg. Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My thoughts on the release of Jesus Returns, a book becoming a trilogy, and having fans…

So, ‘Jesus Returns! Here he comes again…’ is finally out! The long-delayed sequel to ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, and a book that I did not actually expect to write, has been released to the world and it’s a nice, yet funny feeling. I wasn’t going to write this book as I’m not fond of sequels unless they are absolutely justified. Some of my favourite writers (I’m looking at you, Neil Gaiman) have only written stand-alone novels, with the occasional little aside back into a world, and so I wasn’t going to continue the saga of God, His angels and the humans who end up being roped into helping them.

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But then I got sick and the idea for the novel came to me in a fever dream and that was that. Seriously, that is exactly what happened! Once the idea was in my head I had to start writing it so that I could meet the main character, enjoy writing him and see where his story went. That’s just how this whole writing works for me, once I have the idea I have to get it down and go with it, whether it’s a flash fiction piece, a short story, a novel or a whole trilogy of books! So I did and I’m glad that I did.

And now the initial book has become a trilogy and that’s where I intend to conclude matters. In the first, God came to Earth and worked with an atheist named Jeffrey to save the world. In the second it is the turn of Jesus to step in his father’s footsteps and work with Jeffrey’s wife, Melissa, in the service of saving mankind. The third will focus on Jesus’ child, Lillith, and the alliance that she will forms with the Lord of Hell. As for the rest of the plot, well I haven’t that out yet figured but I have started it and so I intend to continue until it is done, provided I can find the time.

And time is the obvious issue. I started writing Jesus Returns a few years ago, I concluded the story and edited it and then life, as it does, got in the way. Its release was delayed due to several factors. First, the speed at which my wife and editor gets through it which is not very quickly at all (I don’t have the money to hire anyone else!). Second, the amount of work that she gave me to do to get it to the standard that it needed to be before I would be happy letting others reading it. That took a while but each and every change improved the novel and it was worth the effort (as it always is when she reads it!). Third, we moved across the country, putting everything on hold until we had settled in. But now it is out and I am glad!

As any author, independent or otherwise can tell you, finally finishing and releasing your book is a really interesting feeling that is both scary and exciting. When friends started asking me when the next book would be out, I was suddenly aware that people were waiting on me and that they were excited for the sequel. That was new and it also adds pressure for I hope they like it! It also makes me feel like what I am doing is worthwhile for if people are looking forward to my next novel then they must’ve enjoyed the last. However, awaiting their verdict is a stressful time and now comes the waiting!

As an independent author it’s hard to know how to gauge success. Selling the first copy of your book feels like a small victory. Getting your first review (if it’s positive) is huge! Reaching ten copies sold is a significant step when you don’t have the backing of an agent or a publishing company. Finishing a sequel feels and putting it out there is also an enjoyable thing. But finding out that friends and family have also become fans of your work is really something nice and truly special! Here’s hoping they like Jesus Returns and will be back for Lucifer and Liliith, as soon as I can get it done that is. Cheers!

P.S. I’ll be going back on some of the podcasts on which I’ve been before and I’m really looking forward to it! Shouldn’t be long so look out for it!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: https://tinyurl.com/yce6bvtg. Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My atheist comedy has been offered a review by a Catholic blogger…is this good?

So, every now and then in the life of a self-published, independent author like myself something interesting happens. It could be getting your first great review, as recently happened to a friend of mine and fellow indie author Rachel Shaw (she’s the writer of a fantasy novel called ‘The Raveller’s Guild’, http://tinyurl.com/kqxnrhu), or it could be going on a podcast and talking to people about your book or maybe starting up your own blog up and finding things to talk about that you hope your audience will enjoy. For me recently it was being offered a review, something that seems to be increasingly difficult to get due to the ever increasing number of indy authors out there, and the not-that-large pool of available reviewers but the interesting part was who the offer came from: a former atheist, now Catholic blogger.

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I should explain. ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ and the sequel ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again!’ are satire novels where religious icons travel to Earth to convince us to stop destroying our world. In the first book the only person who is able to help God is an atheist and in the sequel, Jesus treads God’s well worth path making somewhat of a fool of himself along the way. Now, these clearly make fun of the various religions and of the iconography of Christianity, and I have a lot of fun lampooning what God is, who my version of Jesus is, the role of the Heavenly Bureaucracy and The Committee, a group of angels who are now in control and so on and so forth and you can find an example of the sort of humour that this book contains below.

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But these books are definitely not aimed at a religious audience. Despite that I have always wondered what someone of that persuasion would make of them and so, naturally, lots of questions start swirling around my brain. Do they really want to review my book, a satirical poke in the eye for religion, and if they do how come? I mean, it’s light-hearted fun and I certainly haven’t set out to offend anyone but I’m still left with the question of why would they want to do this? Well, they say that all publicity is good publicity but I was still confronted with the choice of whether I should I do this, do I send a review copy to someone who may, in all likelihood, give me a very bad review indeed. They could always just buy the book but in the end I did send them a free copy.

 

Either way, it draws attention, right, even if the opinion given is not a good one. And if the review is very poor indeed I shall still tweet excerpts from it in the same way that I do with the good reviews that I have received (like the one below). I will simply ensure that the tweet contains the words ‘Catholic blogger’ and then my atheist followers will know that the review may be somewhat biased. If he says that the book is a piece of atheist trash, that’d work for them, right? At least I hope it will. Still, I can’t help wondering whether I have made a mistake in engaging with this person.

 

Now all I can do is wait and see what they make of it and what it is that they say in their review. And wonder, as we indie authors endlessly do, if this is one of the things that helps to pull in the publicity that launches the book to a bigger audience. Here’s hoping, even if takes the outrage of the religious to help move things along. Cheers!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

Indie author? Lost your cover artist? Don’t panic…

I self-published my comedy novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, last July having spent the previous three years trying to find an agent who would represent me without success. Given that my novel is a religious satire where God comes to Earth to try to save us from ourselves and then finds that an atheist is the only person who can help him, I should not have been surprised that the agents I contacted were less than enthusiastic. The book may be something of a hard sell 😉 Despite this, I was certain that there was an audience out there who would enjoy my work. While I was repeatedly editing the novel and considering the self-publishing route I realised that I needed a striking cover, as all independent authors do, for that is the first thing that a potential reader will see and so a stunning image that grabs their attention is absolutely essential. I made some enquiries and found an artist who was willing to work with me and the image that you see below was the result.

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I was very happy with the cover, I’ve had many people ask me about it and so, when it came to writing the sequel that I never thought I was going to write, ‘Jesus Returns! Here he comes again’, I knew that I needed something that complemented the image that I already had. Unfortunately, this was when my cover artist decided to go AWOL. The last time I had checked in with her, there was a note on her website saying that she was taking time away from her business to improve her skills and come back afresh. Now she seemed to have completely gone off the grid. I emailed her, politely asking whether she would be interested in making a cover for my sequel and that she at least reply to let me know either way. I received no such reply. I waited a while, worked on the manuscript and then emailed again. And then finally, one more time just to be sure. Nothing. Eventually I came to the realisation that I needed to find another artist, that mine was truly out of the game, and that I would just have to accept that I would probably not get another one like the first and that whatever I ended up with would have to suffice, even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. What else could I do?

So I again began the tedious process of sending out emails and searching for her replacement with little hope of success. I contacted some artists who never got back to me and then some kind person on Twitter sent me in the direction of Natasha Snow. I sent her an email explaining what I wanted to see if she had any interest in the project as well as a link to the previous cover image. Natasha replied that my last cover was indeed quite spectacular and that she would look into finding suitable stock images and I continued to wait and see whether she could help me.

I needn’t have worried. The first indication I had that I might get the cover that I wanted was when Natasha sent me some links to some stock images that looked remarkably like how I imagined the Jesus of my novels might look. I knew that his image was the key to the whole thing and that, once that was right, everything else could be figured out. So, we agreed on the image and on the details of the design and I sat back to await the arrival of my new cover. When I received the first draft it confirmed that I had made the right choice and that this whole thing was going to work out. I loved it, only minor revisions were even needed to finish the image and, once they were done, I received the rather wonderful image that you see below…

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So, if you’re a self-published, independent author like me who’s lost your cover artist (what are the chances?) then my advice is this: don’t panic, send out some feelers, know what you want and it will most likely work out well, as it did for me. You could also check out Natasha’s website (http://natashasnow.com/) and send your business her way, if you wanted to 😉 You never know, she might make for you as striking an image as she did for me. Here’s hoping!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’…

This time I’m reviewing Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’, his book of collected non-fiction. I have been a fan of Mr. Pratchett’s for as long as I can remember, I read his and Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ in my teens and every Discworld novel since then, along with most of the rest of Pratchett’s output. But before reading this book I hadn’t read much of his non-fiction output and so this collection was a joy to find and devour. I also think that it is fair to say that Pratchett, along with Gaiman, is a huge influence on my work and writings (who isn’t influenced by this pair, though) and reader reviews have even made that comparison more directly than I would ever dare (review here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z), which is lovely! Anyway, onto my review.

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So, ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ includes all manner of articles Pratchett wrote from the 1970’s to almost current day where he talks about things ranging from what his life as a writer was really like both at home and on the road, to his thoughts on paying taxes or on education, to how much his life changed since he announced that he was suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s. The articles range from the absolutely hilarious to the heartbreakingly poignant and I don’t remember the last time I read or saw anything that made me laugh as much as this book. And it’s non-fiction! But Pratchett knows how to set up and deliver a joke and the speech’s that he gave must surely have been absolute barnstormers. I had to continuously pause when I was reading the book so that I could stop myself from laughing too loudly on the train to work. I think I might even be scaring the other passengers a little! Oh, well.

Pratchett also covered matters that he clearly felt strongly about including the need for regulated assisted suicide in the UK (or assisted death as Pratchett prefers to call it) so as to reduce the suffering of people with terminal illnesses to how poorly funded Alzheimer’s research is compared to things like cancer research. These articles obviously have a different feel that the openly comic ones that the book starts with but they are nevertheless a joy to read.  As with Gaiman’s ‘View from the Cheap Seats’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/zklvpvp), there’s a strong sense when reading this book of the author talking directly to the reader and that is just wonderful! As a young, self-published author with no agent, publishing house or support network, I am yet to go on a book tour or do a signing but I’m hoping to get to that point someday and Pratchett’s words on what it is like and how to cope with the stresses of said life are invaluable. These articles are also incredibly entertaining too which always helps!

As a fan of his work, I’ve read the vast majority of Pratchett’s output (I still have to read ‘Nation’, his best book according to the author, so I shall definitely have to hunt that out) and this is one of the one’s that I have enjoyed the most. I expected to enjoy it, but not nearly as much as a I did. ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ is a joy to read from start to finish, through the early articles and letters onto his life as an author to his fight against Alzheimer’s and how much his life changed when he announced he was suffering from the disease. I highly recommend this book to any and all writers out there as well as to fans of his work who simply want more of his writings to read, even if what we all really want is more Discworld novels.  Pratchett has left an incredible legacy and this is one part of said legacy that deserves to be read and enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible. So go out and read it people!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Anthony Loewenstein’s ‘Disaster Capitalism’…

A number of books that I have read in the past year have given me a better understanding of the way in which the world actually works and of the future direction it may be heading in, including Paul Mason’s ‘Postcapitalism’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/grg36v8), Owen Jones’ ‘The Establishment’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/jo8sekz) and several others besides. All of these have been informative, if a little depressing, to read but none more so than ‘Disaster Capitalism: making a killing out of catastrophe’ from Anthony Loewenstein. Right, onto my review!

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‘Disaster Capitalism’ is an excellently researched and documented work, which covers topics from the way in which private military corporations have profited from wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the stripping of public services in Greece during their crisis (austerity has done the same in the UK, handing public services to private hands), to the way in which private prisons and detention centres are run in the US, UK and Australia in a manner that costs a fortune but achieves little. This book covers a litany of cases where the rich and wealthy maintain their hold on the world by preventing the money that is supposed to help those affected by disaster from reaching them, instead padding their bottom lines.

In a similar manner to Johann Hari’s incredible ‘Chasing the Scream’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/hy8q9gu), Loewenstein travelled the world and talked to many people affected by these policies, and the people and places that he managed to access is impressive. Learning how Haiti has been treated in the time since the 2012 earthquake, seeing how aid is funnelled from the US to non-governmental organisations who then seem to be under no obligation to actually provide the relief that the aid was intended for, is incredibly depressing. Reading as Loewenstein documents efforts by the US to force Haiti to accept the neo-liberalist agenda that prevents the island from allowing its citizens to achieve independence from aid through farming and by other means, and forcing them to work for poverty wages in industrial parks as per the dominant model is awful. And the list of crimes goes on and on.

Now, an awful lot of the problems created in this scenario stem from the inability of the media to actually report on what is happening in the world. Other books I’ve read, such as ‘Triumph of the Political Class’ by Peter Oborne (review here: http://tinyurl.com/jevqp6z ) have made the case that the media are so deeply in bed with politicians that they can no longer do their job properly and I think the case can be made that the same is true of commercial interests. Stories have been recently reported where media outlets, in this case the Telegraph, refused to report on stories that would negatively impact on their sponsors like HSBC. It seems that the media, our primary source of information on the state of the world, has become less than trustworthy and this makes it much more difficult to understand what is broken in and how we fix it.

‘Disaster Capitalism’ is another of those books that, once you’ve read it, your world view will likely be changed. And that’s a good thing. I’m starting to see stories in the media in a different light and I feel I am better able to understand world events as well as how far things need to change, to get away from the current model and towards providing actual disaster relief. And with our ever warming world, the incidence of natural disasters is sure to increase making the need for change ever more urgent.

As with the other, similar non-fiction books I have recently read and reviewed, ‘Disaster Capitalism’ ends on a hopeful note and actually there now seems to be a movement towards change. The tide may finally be turning against this sort of arrangement between private companies and government with an announcement that the US will be reducing the number of privately run prisons (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/18/us-government-private-prisons-use-justice-department https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/aug/18/us-government-private-prisons-use-justice-department). Personally, I’m waiting for the end of neo-liberalism, as predicted in many of the books and articles I read, and for us to finally reach the turning point away from allowing these expensive and ineffective deals and towards something that will actually provide the services intended from the money spent. I can’t wait for that day to come, and hopefully it won’t be too much longer.

Next time, my review of Terry Pratchett’s wonderful ‘A slip of the Keyboard’. Until then…

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TEN reviews with an average of 4.3 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My ‘rambling’ review of Neil Gaiman’s ‘The View from the Cheap Seats’…

In case it isn’t quite clear from my previous ‘rambing’ blog posts, Neil Gaiman is probably my favourite author. I have loved his work for as long as I can remember from reading his and Terry Pratchett’s ‘Good Omens’ in the 90’s as a teenager, to discovering ‘The Graveyard Book’ in my local library many years later, I’ve always read everything of his that I can get my hands on. I’ve enjoyed all of his novels and most of his short-story collections, as well as his excellent comics especially Sandman (which I will be buying in the beautiful omnibus edition when funds allow). I’ve never read anything of Gaiman’s that I didn’t find to be beautifully written and that I didn’t take a lot away from. Anyway, onwards to the review!

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‘The View from the Cheap Seats’ is a non-fiction, mish-mash of many random things such as the introduction to books written by friends of Gaiman, including the late Terry Pratchett, to blog posts taking in such topics as his appearance at the Oscars (from which the title of this book is taken) or a heartbreaking visit to Syria, to musings on friends like Charles Vess or Dave McKean and with ‘View’ Gaiman’s passion is clearly on display. He writes about things that matter to him and that he wants you to care about and everything written by Gaiman is worth reading, in my opinion.

I would always recommend reading Gaiman’s work but ‘View from the Cheap Seats’ is something a little different, something that may be passed over by readers of his due to the fact that it’s not a work of fiction. I would urge people to not do that. Find the time for this sizeable tome, you won’t be disappointed and a lot of worthwhile information will be conveyed to you. I also felt with this volume that Gaiman was almost reading these exchanges to me (as it often feels like when you listen to his audio version of Neverwhere) and that was something I enjoyed very much. He is a writer who is always looking to improve, always striving to be better, and someone who does not want to stay still for too long, nor to repeat what he has already done, something which many writers seem to settle into once a certain level of success and fame is reached. Reading Gaiman always makes me want to be a better writer and I think that is one of the best things about reading his work.

When my wife and I recently saw Gaiman and Amanda Palmer in a New Statesman event, several things stood out. One is how unbelievably talented this pair is (but also how hard they work) as well as how much they adore each other. Second, they obviously give a shit about the world around them and want to do what they can to improve said world. Gaiman’s visit to Syria, and subsequent appearances on news networks, as well as his blog post (which is included here) demonstrate that he would very much like to contribute to both the conversation and to finding a solution to the problems of the world. And given the state of the world, I think most of us know how he feels.

I got the copy that I read from my local library (something I’m sure Gaiman would like) but I may at some point pick up a copy of this book if only to, hopefully, get it signed (along with my hardcover copy of Graveyard book, which I treasure) as well as to work my way back through the frankly ridiculously long list of authors that Gaiman talks about. From Ray Bradbury to Brian Aldiss and many other names along the way, the book could potentially provide you with an impressively long reading list. I will be endeavouring to find the time to add some of these authors to my to-read list, though I have no clue when that will happen, given the stack I seem to permanently be attempting to tackle

I think it’s fair to say that Gaiman is an influence on my writing, probably my biggest influence, and I strive to one day write as well as he does. Maybe if I keep going that will happen. Eventually. ‘Only an atheist’ has already been compared to Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett by a reader who reviewed it and I hope that something I write will be compared to Gaiman. Until then, I shall also strive to be the best writer I can be, to aim to keep improving, and to repeat myself as little as possible. In this, Gaiman provides a role model and for that, as much as for his writings, I am grateful. Cheers!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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